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Marlborough, Mount

Summit Elevation (m): 2973
Trip Date: June 22 2014
Elevation Gain (m): 1640
Round Trip Time (hr): 14
Total Trip Distance (km): 29
Quick ‘n Dirty Rating: Class 3/4 – you fall, you break something or worse
Difficulty Notes: Rated alpine for our ascent due to a glacier approach and very steep snow. Exposed ridge to the summit from the top of the snow / glacier.
Technical Rating: MN7; YDS (I)
GPS Track: Download
MapGoogle Maps


After a perfect day on Mount Joffre I woke up the team at 03:30 on Sunday morning for an attempt at my 400th peak – Mount Marlborough. We packed up camp under a clear, cool sky and soon found ourselves under the approach gully up the north west side of the mountain. The snow was fairly hard, but there was a punchy crust if you went looking for it. We knew that we had to get up and down the steep south face to the upper ridge before the morning sun started to hit it. There was recent avy debris in the upper bowl so we knew that parts of the slope wanted to slide.

Mount Marlborough Route Map

We dumped most of our gear on a rock island near the bottom of the gully and started ‘shoeing up. The approach was perfect! A narrow gully led easily up to the upper bowl where we could see our route steepening significantly. It’s always fun scoping out a new route “on the fly” with no idea if it’ll actually go or not. Steven mentioned that maybe we should swap crampons for our ‘shoes but I was a bit concerned about punching through the crust and said the ‘shoes would probably go right up to the north west ridge. Should have listened to Steven on that one…

As we climbed up beside the fresh avy debris the slope began to steepen significantly. We’ve had a lot of experience on steep snow slopes the past month or so (Collie, Ayesha, Trapper, Cirrus, Joffre) and there’s one thing that’s always true – when the slope reaches and exceeds 40 degrees you must be in crampons! Near the ridge I began to get a bit dizzy from staring at the snow as I climbed (and probably due to a major head cold and all the exertion of the past 24 hours.). This was not great timing as the slope also steepened just past the 40 degree mark and the ‘shoes began to feel very insecure. It was way too late to change to the crampons at this point so we all powered up to the ridge above, using inertia and determination to override gravity temporarily!

A nice morning panorama with Warrior, Northover and Lyautey from L to R.
Ben comes up the last little bit of snow to the ridge – a bit too steep for ‘shoes but he makes it.

Once on the ridge top we could see that our route worked out just about as perfectly as a “blind” route could – we would definitely make the summit. If we tried reaching the ridge any quicker we’d have run into 5th class terrain. As it was, the ridge was plenty exposed to the summit – certainly didn’t want to slip off the north side here! The views, at 08:00 were sublime in every direction and I thoroughly enjoyed the experience of “winging” my 400th summit. There’s a lot of memories in 400 mountain peaks and Marlborough, although not huge or sexy as a peak, ticked off a lot of reasons why I love the Rockies so much.

Ben walks the last bit of corniced ridge to the summit.
Summits include Foch, Petain, Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier and Warrior (L to R).
The Royal Group with Warrior and Onslow in the foreground. King George at the left and Princess Mary at extreme left out of sight.
Ben starts down the exposed summit ridge – our route up is from bottom left on the snow and avy debris. Marlborough Pond at lower center right.

After snapping some summit photos we headed down. We had a long ways to hike out yet and the upper mountain would soon be in sun and we wanted to be long gone by then. Crampons worked great for descent – the steepest roll near the ridge was certainly steeper than anything we’d done on Joffre the day previous as we had to face inward for about 50 vertical meters before we could turn around and plunge step down the rest of the way.

Another successful summit – ambling down to our gear on a gorgeous, windless, clear morning. It doesn’t get better than this.

Read about the rest of our egress in my Joffre trip report.

Mount Marlborough
Mount Northover gets some alpine glow.
Mount Northover gets some alpine glow.
Perfect hard snow for snowshoeing in the west gully.
Perfect hard snow for snowshoeing in the west gully.
Looking up the gully to the summit.
Looking up the gully to the summit.
Below the upper bowl the terrain already starts to steepen.
Below the upper bowl the terrain already starts to steepen.
A nice morning panorama with Cordonnier, Warrior, Northover, Pushover and Lyautey from L to R.
A nice morning panorama with Cordonnier, Warrior, Northover, Pushover and Lyautey from L to R.
Looking up the avy debris at our ascent slope.
Looking up the avy debris at our ascent slope.
Should be wearing crampons now.
Should be wearing crampons now.
Ben comes up the last little bit of snow to the ridge - a bit too steep for 'shoes but he makes it.
Ben comes up the last little bit of snow to the ridge - a bit too steep for 'shoes but he makes it.
Ben comes up the ridge with a great panorama of summits behind him. There's fantastic exposure on the ridge too.
Ben comes up the ridge with a great panorama of summits behind him. There's fantastic exposure on the ridge too.
Ben walks the last bit of corniced ridge to the summit.
Ben walks the last bit of corniced ridge to the summit.
Vern stands on his 400th summit with his 399th (Joffre) rising in the background.
Vern stands on his 400th summit with his 399th (Joffre) rising in the background.
Summits include Foch, Petain, Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier and Warrior (L to R).
Summits include Foch, Petain, Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier and Warrior (L to R).
Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier, Warrior, Royal Group, Onslow, Defender, Northover, Assiniboine, Beatty, Lyautey, Sarrail
Joffre, Mangin, Cordonnier, Warrior, Royal Group, Onslow, Defender, Northover, Assiniboine, Beatty, Lyautey, Sarrail
Mount Joffre poking up over it's false north summit and Mangin with the Mangin Glacier and our tracks up
Mount Joffre poking up over it's false north summit and Mangin with the Mangin Glacier and our tracks up
Onslow, Defender, Northover and Lyautey in the foreground with the Royal Group, Assiniboine and Sir Douglas.
Onslow, Defender, Northover and Lyautey in the foreground with the Royal Group, Assiniboine and Sir Douglas.
Cordonnier at left with Mount Warrior sitting under the Mount King George at right.
Cordonnier at left with Mount Warrior sitting under the Mount King George at right.
Sir Douglas at left with Robertson at right.
Sir Douglas at left with Robertson at right.
King George is on my hit list for sure. This is the face that I will traverse from R to L before going to the summit.
King George is on my hit list for sure. This is the face that I will traverse from R to L before going to the summit.
To the right of King George is Prince Albert, Prince Henry, Prince John and Queen Mary. Prince George sits in front of King George and is barely visible here.
To the right of King George is Prince Albert, Prince Henry, Prince John and Queen Mary. Prince George sits in front of King George and is barely visible here.
One of my favorite climbs - Assiniboine towers over one of my scariest ones - Northover!
One of my favorite climbs - Assiniboine towers over one of my scariest ones - Northover!
I love Mount Sarrail's graceful line to her summit.
I love Mount Sarrail's graceful line to her summit.
I think this is Neville - an impressive looking summit ridge!
I think this is Neville - an impressive looking summit ridge!
Our tracks from less than 12 hours ago - straight up the north face of Joffre.
Our tracks from less than 12 hours ago - straight up the north face of Joffre.
Another view of Mount Joffre looming over its north ridge with our tracks just visible.
Another view of Mount Joffre looming over its north ridge with our tracks just visible.
Mount Mangin isn't as easy as it looks.
Mount Mangin isn't as easy as it looks.
Views go deep into BC towards Mount Farnham (11,463ft) in the Purcells. Farnham Tower is the obvious leaning appendage.
Views go deep into BC towards Mount Farnham (11,463ft) in the Purcells. Farnham Tower is the obvious leaning appendage.
More of the Purcells.
More of the Purcells.
Ben starts down the exposed summit ridge - our route up is from bottom left on the snow and avy debris.
Ben starts down the exposed summit ridge - our route up is from bottom left on the snow and avy debris.
Gorgeous views down the exposed NW ridge towards Lyautey (L) and Mount Indefatigable over Kananaskis Lakes at right.
Gorgeous views down the exposed NW ridge towards Lyautey (L) and Mount Indefatigable over Kananaskis Lakes at right.
We wisely donned crampons for the descent.
We wisely donned crampons for the descent.
The snow is still rock-hard, thankfully.
The snow is still rock-hard, thankfully.
Another successful summit - ambling down to our gear on a gorgeous, windless, clear morning. It doesn't get better than this.
Another successful summit - ambling down to our gear on a gorgeous, windless, clear morning. It doesn't get better than this.
All the hard stuff done, now we just have a gorgeous hike to the parking lot to look forward to.
All the hard stuff done, now we just have a gorgeous hike to the parking lot to look forward to.
Nearing the bottom of the gully - note all the rain runnels in the snow? This area got about 4" two days before our trip!
Nearing the bottom of the gully - note all the rain runnels in the snow? This area got about 4" two days before our trip!
A great shot of our entire route up Marlborough (L) from near the river flats.
A great shot of our entire route up Marlborough (L) from near the river flats.
Our route up and down Marlborough. Other parties have gone to the right hand ridge - we went left up the avy slope.
Our route up and down Marlborough. Other parties have gone to the right hand ridge - we went left up the avy slope.

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